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Reading: From Christian Education by Bl. Basil Moreau
Prudence is the virtue that helps us decide the best way of reaching our goals and that helps us work against obstacles standing in the way of reaching them. To understand the necessity of prudence, we only have to reflect on our purpose as Christian educators. We cannot compromise our mission or hinder its progress by acting imprudently in directing our schools.
Society does not permit us the luxury of mistakes in this area: Often it takes just a minor imprudent act to ruin the reputation of a solidly established school. Teachers and administrators must take extra care to employ prudence so that they don’t prejudice the people in the area around the school. It would be helpful to new teachers if they had a greater experience of people and events in the area before they come to teaching, but only a limited experience is possible. Teachers in a school are of necessity in contact with three different groups of people: the students, the parents, and the society in which the school exists. These groups place different demands upon the school and the teachers that must be satisfied in order for the school to exist in reasonable peace with each group. No matter what skilled teachers do, it is likely that some opposition will arise against them from time to time, especially among those who already look upon a particular school with an unfavorable bias. Teachers should expect to be criticized regularly in their careers: some people will complain about their way of teaching, others will complain about their discipline; some will say that their students don’t make any progress, others will say that they are unjust in giving awards.
Teachers who always act with prudence will know how to make light of all this complaining insofar as it is false and unjust, and they will be able to take care of those areas in which they should make some improvement. The best way to avoid such accusations is to use the following principles: study and distinguish the makeup of students in order to treat each one according to his or her specific needs, and prepare classes well. By reviewing the materials that make up the subject matter of lessons there will be no confusion of ideas and there will be clarity of expression on the part of the teacher. These two principles will assist teachers who believe that their mission is important. It is impossible for a teacher to educate well without fully preparing for the task daily. Cleverness can never substitute adequately for preliminary work and preparation, and most of the time teachers who rely on their own cleverness fall into the use of old materials, repetitions, and digressions. Often some teachers have the illusion that the lesson or material is so simple, so easy, and so elementary that they require no preparation.
No teaching, however, requires more preparation than the teaching of young people. There is nothing more difficult than helping young minds begin building a fund of knowledge—minds often with small capacity and very few ideas. It is not easy to help students with inattentive and unskilled minds move toward study and reflection. Teachers must practice becoming like young people, borrowing their language, taking their ideas, and placing all they say into the young people’s limited area of knowledge. This kind of teaching requires real skill and devotion. Teachers who do not prepare for it are acting outside of the counsels of prudence. Consider teachers who are imprudent enough and presumptuous enough to dare running a class without looking ahead to what they are going to say or do. They enter the class without books or materials. They tend to talk at the top of their voice when they should be silent, saying whatever comes into their minds without considering the worth of what is being said or the importance of their opinions. They do not ask for anyone’s advice and do not even listen to those with more experience. There exists great disorder in their explanations, making them incoherent and practically unintelligible to the students. They deny one day what they have rashly advocated on a previous day, and they often contradict what they have said before. The result of all this is boredom and dislike on the part of students. The students, condemned to listen, yawn or sleep and do not know what to do during the class. They waste their time and begin to take on a dislike of learning and study. This dislike may stay with them for a long time, since that is one of the peculiarities of youth: The impressions and experiences of youth tend to leave an indelible trace during an entire life. It is important for young people, then, to learn early the habits of work and application. A skillful and prudent teacher is able to profit from this peculiarity of youth and give students a good and solid education from the beginning.
Prudence, then, is of the greatest importance. Experience is one sure path for acquiring it, but there is another upon which we must all rely: an openness to the Lord, especially in prayer. Ask the Lord for prudence; pray to the “author of all wisdom” that you will be given the light and necessary graces to direct and lead you in everything with the prudence and wisdom necessary to teach. §
Meditation — Colleen Richards
Blessed Basil Moreau instructs us in the ways of true prudence. Prudence is practical, it solves problems, and it is idealistic in preserving the mission.
Criticism comes regularly to the teacher or school leader. The number of words in the complaint directly corresponds with the recipient’s blood pressure, so temperance and charity are in immediate need, and silence, too, at least temporarily. The prudent response to the criticism must be: Which of these claims are true or even partly true? What should be done about them? Honesty separates the prudence of the world from the prudence of God.
Fortunately, Bl. Basil Moreau provides guidance for preventing such things. Be attentive to the needs of your individual students. Prepare your lessons thoroughly. You are called to “help students with inattentive and unskilled minds move toward study and reflection;” this only happens with careful preparation. Bl. Basil vividly contrasts the characteristics of prudent and imprudent teachers.
We don’t want to take the name of prudence in vain. “Prudence” is sometimes used to cover cowardice and self-promotion. Our caution in acting should have the glory of God and the salvation of souls as its aim. The prudence of the world wants to preserve my reputation and the things I want. The prudence of God seeks the best ways of carrying out His will, not always without risk. Sacrifices are required to prepare our lessons and consider the needs of our students. Commitment to these tasks brings joy!
Where could I help my students delight in the discovery of truth? Have I prepared that path for them in my lessons? Do I use mediocre lessons because, “It’s from the book, so I know it’s good,” when the opposite is true?
What does each of my students need? What academic deficiencies are they showing me? Have taken time to address them? What does their demeanor show me they need? Have I spent time considering the right way to help them?
Lord Jesus, what a cloud of deception can undermine this virtue, prudence! How are we ever to live it? Give us pure hearts, genuine willingness to label our faults, and firmness to commit to reform them. Show us the joy that comes from doing our duties well. And give us the loving spirit that seeks to know the needs of our students, and searches out how to provide for them.
(Please also offer one Mass and one Rosary some time this month for the intentions of the members of the Confraternity.)
Please pray for the needs of your fellow teachers:
For the virtues of perseverance and studiousness as I begin graduate studies in philosophy of education. – Tomas
Lord Jesus, bless Annemarie, who is in the hospital, and her husband.
For inspiration, guidance, and blessings for a start-up school working with their home diocese–that the Lord will guide all parties to perfectly carry out his will.
The father of a student of one of our members has died, leaving behind a young family. We pray for the repose of his soul and for the consolation of his family, as well as for wisdom and peace for his teacher and the rest of the school community.
Please pray for Phil, a doctor from Denver, CO, who has been diagnosed with COVID-19. Phil is the father of 7 young children.
Please pray for the family of Matthew and Terrie Walz. Matthew is a professor at the University of Dallas, and a friend of the Institute. Terrie’s father has been diagnosed with brain tumor; the CoVid crisis has made getting treatment difficult and dangerous.
For the healing and containment of the Coronavirus disease and for all those who have been affected – physically, economically, and spiritually.
Please pray for Fr. John Belmonte, SJ, Superintendent in the Diocese of Joliat, Illinois, who will soon be undergoing surgery to repair a broken shoulder.
Please pray for the repose of the soul of Suzanne Fessler, long-time principal at St. Mary’s High School in Phoenix, who oversaw the transition of the high school to a focus on the development of wisdom and virtue.
For Father Frank Brawner and his health, healing, and continued strength in his ministry – Susan
For the healing of Shirley Balangue, mother of Cyril Cruz, Principal of Holy Innocents School in Long Beach, CA.
For the continued health and healing of Simon Vander Weele, son of Rosemary and Jon Vander Weele of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Classical School in Denver, CO
Pray for healing for Mr. K., Latin teacher at an ICLE member school. We ask for healing and relief from fluid buildup in the lung and cancer.
Please pray for a wonderful theology professor who is undergoing persecution for upholding Catholic teaching on sexuality – Andrew
My wife’s conversion to Catholicism – Adam
Increase in fertility, marriage, families; for grandparents; for a special spouse for a friend – Rosemary
For the Holy Spirit’s increase in the hearts of all concerned with Catholic education in the Pensacola-Tallahassee diocese, especially that He lead us into deeper prayer, greater intimacy with Him – Leslie
Souls in Purgatory especially those who have no one to pray for them; those in the Bahamas and elsewhere affected by natural disasters – Lisa
Please pray that I teach and love my students and teachers as would Christ the Teacher – Joseph & Juliana
For a new teacher in 5th grade; for our Johnsburg Catholic school to become Classical Liberal Arts; for increase in marriage, fertility, families; for young adults’ conversion and love for Jesus and His Church – Rosemary
Help making good choices about family issues – Susan
That our parish school community would grow as an evangelizing community, proclaiming, encountering and responding to the kerygmatic proclamation of Jesus Christ – Nathalie
That Catholic schools and parents be of one heart and one mind by creating their institutions and homes coherently, as “missionary outposts of the Universal Church” with one goal: that the truth of all things, beginning and ending in Jesus Christ, be known and loved through the details in everything – Ruth
For teachers everywhere – Chris